Currently, massage therapists may bill West Virginia’s Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) when they provide massage to public employees. However, according to a recent article in the Charleston Daily Mail newspaper, soon about two-thirds of the massage therapists currently able to engage in such billing will be disqualified from doing so. Yet, another possible scenario was the discontinuation of all billable massage to employees.

According to a press release from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), “Initially, the PEIA Finance Board considered discontinuing massage therapy coverage altogether as a cost-savings measure, but with input from NCBTMB, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and practicing therapists, it will still cover active employees and non-Medicare retirees who visit massage therapists with national certification.”

“Under the revised plan, which goes into effect next summer, state massage therapists billing PEIA must have current national certification, carry $2 million in malpractice insurance and abide by treatment guidelines to be published by the agency with input from the American Massage Therapy Association,” the article stated. “Ted Cheatham, executive director of PEIA, said last week the new regulations would cut the pool of therapists qualified to bill the agency from about 1,100 to 378.”

Massage therapists who are nationally certified must have completed a minimum of 500 hours of instruction; demonstrated mastery of core skills, abilities and knowledge; passed a standardized National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) exam (The National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) and pledged to uphold NCBTMB’s standards of practice and code of ethics, according to the NCBTMB’s website.

Currently, West Virginia requires massage therapists obtain a license, a process that includes completing 500 hours of education and passing either the NCETMB or the Massage Therapy Licensing Exam.

Derenda Weekley, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association, was quoted in the article as saying, “‘I’m sure there’s going to be some therapists that are upset, but in the long run I think it’s going to be good for PEIA clients and massage therapists.'”

“The agency paid $762,000 in claims for massage therapy during the 2011 fiscal year,” the Daily Mail article stated, and added that the new change was a cost-cutting measure. The change goes into effect July 1.

According to PEIA’s website, employees must also now pay a $10 copay for massage therapy, in addition to a deductible and 20 percent coinsurance.

“PEIA has an obligation to state employees to cover necessary medical treatments, but also an obligation to the state of West Virginia to be fiscally responsible,” stated PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham in the NCBTMB press release. “We stand behind the PEIA Finance Board and its decision to only accept massage therapy claims from therapists who meet the new criteria.”